Confront Aerospace Layoffs, Pension Theft with Red-Led Class Struggle

SEATTLE, WA, January 26 — “Don’t you think we ought to do something about that [the scab parts]?” asked a machinist at the last union meeting. Machinist union members had been on strike for the past 17 weeks at the Vought aerospace subcontractor factory in Nashville, Tenn. Within days of walking out, the company brought busloads of scabs into the plant, escorted by armed cops. Tom Wroblewski, IAM District 751 president at Boeing, had just admitted that the struck plant was shipping scab parts to our factories in the Puget Sound. After hemming and hawing, Wroblewski finally offered a pathetic dodge. “We stand ready to help [the strikers],” he declared.

Others demanded the union quit “standing around” and start publicizing the Vought strike in our local union newspaper. “Our members don’t even know about all this,” confided a shop steward and CHALLENGE reader to one of our comrades.

Unfortunately, time ran out for these strikers (and eventually will for us as well if we don’t start organizing class solidarity). Faced with a threat to replace the 1,000 strikers with permanent scabs and the isolation perpetuated by the IAM under the useless slogan “we stand ready to help,” the Vought strikers accepted the company’s final offer soon after our meeting here. Every worker with less than 16 years will no longer accumulate pension benefits, but will have to survive on an increasingly shaky 401(k).

Union ‘Leader’ Hopes For ‘Labor Peace’

Wroblewski began this meeting hoping that the coming year would not be as “eventful” as the last, which saw an eight-week strike. Shop steward after shop steward quickly challenged this notion.

As well as calling for real solidarity with the Nashville strikers, they blasted the union for its silence about rumored layoffs. The company has since officially announced the elimination of 4,500 positions in commercial aerospace.

“We told you,” said one facilities steward, “that the contract language would not protect facilities maintenance jobs. All the company had to do was cite the economy instead of subcontractors and that’s exactly what they did.” Despite the fact that  Boeing has yet to lower production quotas, some facilities maintenance crews have been cut by 50%.

“Didn’t we tell you when we were trying to sell the contract that the new language would save 2,200 facilities and related jobs,” he answered. “Well, if you heard that, so did the company, so they must have known what we expected. Now it’s up to the company to ‘do the right thing.’” Was this guy born yesterday?!

Class Struggle Building For Revolution Our Only Hope

CHALLENGE readers have been discussing the bosses’ worldwide economic crisis. We agreed that the crisis has “upped the ante.” For example, this union meeting made it even clearer that we can’t rely on “contract language” to protect us from the bosses’ attacks.

Many still cling to the hope that Obama will save our skins, but even he’s announced his intention to go after Medicare and Social Security. Cuts in these two programs are racist since black and Latino retirees are more dependent on these government programs. Like all racist attacks, they end up hurting the whole working class.

The union’s reliance on contracts and Democratic Party politics is a failed strategy. Every layoff, foreclosure, theft of our pensions and medical care must be met with revolutionary, anti-racist class-conscious struggle. Strikes, big and small wildcats, shop walkouts and sit-ins, and increased circulation of the revolutionary communist CHALLENGE newspaper are among the most effective ways to meet these attacks.

This is no doubt a tall order. Only the slow but intensified class struggle on the job and for revolutionary communist ideas among our fellow workers, centered in activist readers groups, will prepare the ground. Keeping our eye on the revolutionary ball will eventually produce the numbers of communists we need to end the bosses’ capitalist nightmare once and for all.

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